The Dying Beach by Angela Savage

Author: Angela Savage
Copyright Year: 2013
No of Pages: 339
Review By: Sue Turnbull and Maggie Baron
Book Synopsis:

Sue Turnbull Review
The politics of race and place are up front and centre in Angela Savage’s third crime novel to feature Australian private investigator, Jayne Keeney. Picking up where the Bangkok-based Jayne’s previous case left her, on the precarious cusp of a relationship with an Indian information technology and business graduate five years her junior, The Dying Beach discovers Jayne and Rajiv enjoying a well earned break on the idyllic Andaman coast in Thailand.

Rajiv is now Jayne’s lover as well as her sidekick, the Watson to her Sherlock, in a company they’ve christened KAPI. While this acronym actually stands for Keeney and Patel Investigations, it is also, apparently, a homonym for the Thai word for shrimp paste or a type of classical Indian raga. This cross-cultural play with words pointing to the multicultural, multilingual sensibility which permeates a book encompassing the Western, the Indian and the Thai perspectives on life, love, and the right gifts to take to a funeral.

Although his finesse as a lover may be somewhat lacking, Rajiv’s enthusiasm in the bedroom extends to his energetic embrace of Jayne’s PI agency. After placing ads in Thai women’s magazines, their clientele doubles although the real secret to their success is their outsider status as ‘farang’ (foreignors). Tourists and expats trust the farangs with their sensitive issues, while the Thai turn to them rather than lose face to their fellow Thais.

Although the evolving relationship between Rajiv and Jayne has its own momentum (will it survive the arrival of a handsome Australian volunteer from the Thai Environmental Defenders Office?), it is the murder of a tour guide which hijacks Jayne’s holiday break and provides the overtly political plot. After reading The Dying Beach you may never eat prawns from Thailand again.

With its intricate narrative structure, use of multiple points of view and occasional flashbacks, this is Savage’s most ambitious and accomplished crime novel to date. It’s also her most touching, primarily due to the endearing character of Rajiv Patel who is, Jayne needs to know, a keeper.

Maggie Baron Review
The third book featuring PI Jayne Keaney takes us to Krabi, Thailand, where she is holidaying with her business partner and new love interest Rajiv Patel. But the holiday mood quickly turns when their favoured tour guide Pla is found drowned in circumstances Jayne doesn’t hold to be true.

Angela takes us on a journey where her Australian no-nonsense larrikin character draws on her intimate knowledge of all-things-Thai, giving us access to local culture and customs as she unravels the case.

The story also explores another side of race relations with Jayne’s partner in both business and matters of the heart, Rajiv who is of Indian heritage. This sets him culturally below Jayne in the eyes of the Thai community, which Angela uses to great effect as she engages the reader with the tension this can generate, while exploring racial stereotypes to further her plot as the couple investigate.

Further interest manifests in the character of Paul, an Australian environmental protector concerned with internationally funded development in the region. His character shows another side of the cross-cultural milieu, as we learn of his regret about the way he managed his relationship with Pla.

Angela takes us on a fast paced journey, in search of the truth and to right the wrong done to Pla. The tale is embedded in Thai culture and customs but goes much further than the use of Thai sayings and language. She gently peels back the surface to reveal cultural complexities, drawing on her background having lived in Bangkok. Through her experiences we gain sensitive insights to Thai folklore, customs and beliefs, and find out who and why dunnit along the way.

This book well deserves being short listed in the 2014 Sisters in Crime Davitt awards for Best Adult Novel.